Irwindale, Crippled by Legal Bills, Seeks to Settle Lawsuits
Bogged down with $2.5 million in legal bills and the collapse of its bid to land the Los Angeles Raiders, Irwindale officials say they are ready to settle several lawsuits against them in order to minimize financial losses and political embarrassment to the city.
Mayor Richard Chico said this week that the new settlement efforts were spurred by last month’s elections. Though Chico said he has wanted to end the litigation “for quite a while . . . I was more passive knowing I wasn’t going to change anything until the council changed. Now we have to take corrective steps.”
Referring to a closed council session held last week, City Atty. Charles Martin said: “We were directed to settle as many as we can so we will try. Our legal fees each month have been $30,000, $40,000. No city can endure spending that kind of money.”
In the closed-door meeting last week, the City Council voted 3 to 2 to make good-faith efforts to settle:
* Two suits against former redevelopment consultant Frederick P. Lyte, who spearheaded the Raiders deal but was fired in 1988 after a falling-out with Councilman Patricio Miranda. Irwindale claims Lyte illegally received commissions on projects he recommended to the city and should pay $2 million in damages. In a countersuit, Lyte claims the city owes him $1.2 million in back wages. Martin and two other city officials met with Lyte Tuesday to discuss a settlement.
* A suit against Irwindale by newly elected Councilman Frederick Barbosa. The suit claims the $10 million in good-faith money that Irwindale paid to Raiders owner Al Davis was an illegal gift of public money. A second Barbosa suit resulted in an injunction barring Irwindale from negotiating with the team until it completed an environmental impact report on the stadium.
* A suit against Miranda by Brenda Marin, a resident who claims the councilman violated conflict-of-interest laws in a redevelopment agency project involving land that Marin owns. Irwindale is paying for his defense.
Miranda and Councilman Salvador Hernandez voted against the settlement talks. Hernandez said he believes Irwindale would win the Lyte suit if it went to trial.
Lyte said Tuesday he has tried to settle with the city but was opposed by Miranda, Hernandez and former Councilman Joseph Breceda, who lost his seat April 10. Barbosa, Chico and Councilman Robert Diaz voted for the latest settlement effort.